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L.A. schools chief vows suit to block cuts to bus-service funding

December 13, 2011 |  2:53 pm

Free school bus service to end in California
L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy announced Tuesday that the state’s largest school system would file suit to block fresh budget cuts that would end state funding of home-to-school transportation for the rest of the school year.

The so-called trigger cuts are set to take effect automatically because the latest projections of state tax revenue are well below hoped-for levels.

The effect on the Los Angeles Unified School District would be a $38-million midyear reduction in transportation funding. That amount represents a 50% cut halfway through the year in that budget.

“We would have nothing left for transportation,” Deasy said at Tuesday’s school board meeting. As a result, he said, “the most vulnerable youth in Los Angeles” would suffer "irreparable harm."

District transportation services already have absorbed sharp reductions in recent years, eliminating most regular home-to-school services. What remains is transportation to magnet schools, which are part of a program to integrate schools, and busing for disabled students. Some students also are bused for safety reasons to avoid extreme traffic hazards or dangerous gang territory.

About 35,000 students rely on bus service to magnet programs; about 13,000 disabled students ride buses.

Deasy noted that services to both groups of students are required by law. If the district abides by these obligations, cuts elsewhere would result in a disparity of funding for students across the school system, when compared to other school districts, he said.

LAUSD's planned lawsuit would be based on constitutional protections that are supposed to guarantee a quality and equal education for all California students. 

Deasy also vowed not to make the cuts. Instead, he would risk facing a larger deficit for the coming school year.

“At best I will need to come to the board and find a way to create an even deeper deficit,” for next year, he said.

"These cuts have to stop," said school board president Monica Garcia. "If we are ever going to rebuild as a state, we must start investing."

Underscoring the impending problems, more than 100 students from Bravo Medical Magnet walked out of classes Tuesday and marched to district headquarters. One contingent addressed the board meeting. About 80% of that school’s students rely on busing to get to school.

“My school provides an education that no other school can,” said Marine Minasyan, a 16-year-old junior. To get to the school's Boyle Heights campus, she catches a bus that leaves Hollywood at 6:25 a.m.


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-- Howard Blume

Photo: Students leave the Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies in Tarzana and board buses for home on Tuesday. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times